August 16, 2016

1948. Germans Making the Most of Christmas in Occupied Berlin

Christmas in West Berlin
"Candy bomber" used to drop candy to the children of blockaded West Berlin as part of Operation "Little Vittles," a campaign launched by Gail Halvorsen (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 1948

I went Christmas shopping with a German friend of mine in downtown Berlin the other day. He has two sons; one six, and the other eight. In several hours of shopping, the only present he could buy was a stocking cap, priced far out of his ability to pay.

We went to toy shops. There were some paper dolls; some blocks of wood. And because of the blockade, there probably won't even be a Christmas tree.

This family has saved what food it can out of its already inadequate ration and, maybe by going to the black market, a can of sausage will turn up as the main course Christmas Day.

The father is sacrificing his only extra pair of pants to make a coat and jacket for the oldest boy, to be handed down. An American friend gave him an old, worn out blanket which will provide a coat for the smallest child. And considering that my friend lives in a district of Berlin which has absolutely no electricity, Christmas will be spent by the light of one oil lamp. They are saving a big log to get the place warm on the night that most Christians celebrate the Nativity.

This is an extreme case. Not all Berliners will be that badly off. And considering what Germany already has done to the rest of the world, this is no time to shed crocodile tears over the fate of the poor, defeated Teuton.

It is easy to preserve this attitude—until you look at the children. Kids are not Teutons or defeated people, or even Communists, Nazis, Democrats, or Republicans. Kids are kids. Nothing more, nothing less.

And here in Germany, there are so many of them. The maternity industry, if you can call it that, is the only operation that immediately bounced back to prewar production, and even now is surpassing the birthrate before the war.

There are more than nine and a half million children in the American zone of Germany, including this blockaded portion of Berlin.

The vision of Santa Claus is still preserved as a fat, jolly rascal dressed in red. In this occupied country, it is more likely that he is actually probably young and slim and dressed in the khaki of the United States forces of occupation.

This will be the fourth Christmas of the occupation. For the past month, throughout the American governed parts of Germany, plays have been given, American wives have been holding bazaars and cake sales, special entertainments have been staged, collections have been taken up. The German Youth activities group has been breaking its neck.

Because for some reason, no American can see a child go without Christmas—no matter how inadequate it is.

Since there are so many children, not even the American occupation personnel can take care of them all this year, although time and money is being given generously.

This is where you come in. There is an organization called the "General Clay Christmas Fund for German Children." But we'll go into that later.

I said earlier that Santa Claus to many German children will be wearing khaki. I've got a pair with me now—and less likely Kringles have you ever seen.